Why was this work needed?
In the 1940s in the UK, it is estimated that over half of men smoked. Although evidence of the health risks was starting to emerge, the link between smoking, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease was not widely known or accepted.
There is now a large body of research demonstrating the health risks of smoking, but this particularly influential study was first published by Doll and Hill in 1954. They sent questionnaires to doctors, via the British Medical Association, asking about their smoking habits and over 40,000 responded. These people were subsequently monitored the later causes of death. The study first reported back in 1954, but continued to follow up the participants until 2001.
The research established that the chance of someone dying from lung cancer or a heart attack increased the more they smoked.
What were the benefits?
This research contributed towards the development of an irrefutable body of evidence that smoking causes, among other things, lung cancer and heart attacks. This discovery now underpins public health policy across the world.
What type of data was involved?
The researchers used the British Medical Association to contact doctors and the Registrars-General then notified them of any deaths among the participants.
What was the legal basis for accessing the data?
Because of the age of this study, the legal mechanisms and data access procedures are not equivalent to the ones which would be used today.
Who funded and collaborated on this work?
The original study was funded by the Medical Research Council.
Where can I go for more information?
- Page updated: 31 August 2017
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